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Old 08-19-2007, 12:45 PM   #1
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Talking Made cookies from scratch - first time - need tips

Hello,

I've made cookies, cakes, and brownies in the past using mixes. Now I got the courage to make homemade cookies from scratch! However, they didn't turn out as well as I hoped.

The cookies weren't that thick, and not as full-flavored as I wanted. I made some bigger cookies by dropping the dough in tablespoon fulls, and normal cookies by dropping teaspoon fulls, on greased baking pans. I baked at 350 degrees for about 12-15 minutes.

Here's my recipe:

- 1 cup Smart Balance margarine (67% veg oil)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- half-cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups unbleached flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- white chips + chopped walnuts

Based on the above, can you give me tips to improve my cookies? Ideally, I'd like thick, chewy cookies.

Thanks.

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Old 08-19-2007, 12:57 PM   #2
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Where did you get the recipe?
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Old 08-19-2007, 01:03 PM   #3
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Consider using real butter or butter flavored shortening. Chill the dough and keep it chilled as you bake and chill the cookie sheets and keep them chilled.

The chilling will delay the melting of the fat. This keeps the dough from spreading out so the heat of the oven can set it in a thicker shape.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla and a half teaspoon of salt.

Also, my personal preference is for chocolate chips over white. I think they have better flavor.
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Old 08-19-2007, 01:46 PM   #4
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I'm going to break down a well known recipe into it's componants to teach something about cookies.

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated [white] sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups (12-ounce package) NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
BAKE in preheated 375-degree [Fahrenheit] oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
PAN COOKIE VARIATION: PREPARE dough as above. Spread into greased 15"x10" jelly-roll pan. Bake in preheated 375-degree [Fahrenheit] oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack.

FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (>5,200 feet): INCREASE flour to 2 1/2 cups; add 2 teaspoonfuls water with flour; reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookies for 17 to 19 minutes.


These cookies can be made soft and chewey, or hard and crunchy. The difference between the two is the time the cookie is allowed to bake. Also, each oven is different. Just because the dial on your oven says 375, it doesn't mean that that is the actual cooking temperature.

Let's look at the ingredients.

Flour - is the largest ingredient. It contains starches and a protien called gluten. It has little flavor of its own but creates the base that carries the other flavors. The starches and gluten are fundamental in creating the cookie texture.

Baking Soda- also called bicarbanate of soda - is chemically a base, or alkalye. It reacts with acidic ingredients to produce carbon dioxide gas. The gluten in the flour acts like tiny ballunes to trap that gas and leaven, or make the cookie dough rise.

Salt - Sodium Choride, simply adds flavor. Without it, the cookies will taste very flat, boring.

Butter/Shortening/Lard/Cooking oil - all are fats that add a moist mouth-feel to the cookie. It also helps to create the desired texture of the cookie.

Sugar - adds both flavor and texture to the cookie. When the sugar is heated, it melts and becomes sticky. This sticky syrup is distributed equally through the cookie, giving it chewiness. It also sweetens the cookie.

Brown Sugar - is white sugar with molasses mixed in. It gives a rich flavor to the cookie.

Vanilla Extract - pure flavor that is enhanced by the sugars.

Eggs - The protien in the egg-white helps hold the four together, giving the cookie structure. It is also slightly acidic and reacts with the baking soda. The egg yolk is contains an imulsifier that helps liquify the fats, allowing them to be dstributed evenly throught the cookie batter. It also adds rich flavor.

Nuts - add crunchy texture as a counterpoint to the chewy cookie, and produces a wonderful flavor.

Chocolate chips - adds flavor and gooeyness.

In my home oven, if I cook this recipe at 375' F. for eight minutes, the end product is too gooey and will not hold together. If I cook them for nine minutes, the cookies will turn out just the way my wife loves them, very soft, but with sufficient body to barely hold together, and tender. If I good them for 10 minutes, the cookies begin to harden. My DW doesn't care for hard/crunchie cookies. Beyond ten minutes, the cookies will begin to burn on the bottom. It is very important to take this style of cookie off of the cookie sheet imediatley to halt the cooking process, as the cookie sheet is still very hot and will quickly burn the cookie bottom before it cools.

To show you how you can adjust recipes, I took that basic Toll-House recipe and modified it to make White Chocolate chip Macadamia Nut cookies. I removed the brown sugar and replaced it with white sugar. I replaced the walnuts with chopped macadamia nuts, and replaced the chocolate chips with white chocolate chips.

The recipe was in all ways the same as it is for Toll-House cookies as far as the types of ingredients is concerned. The only change was the flavor.

For cake-style cookies, you only need remember that a cake is more tender, and has much more loft. It still needs sweetener for flavor, fat for moisture, salt for flavor, etc. I threw together some butterscotch chip cookies in 15 minutes from start to finish for a niece who was leaving for home in lower Michigan. She was to leave about a half-hour from the time I got off work. I didn't have time to look for a recipe. Here's how I handled it and the cookies came out wonderful.

I put 1 cup of flour into a bowl. I added 1/2 tsp. of salt and 1/4 cup of Splenda sweetener. I also added 1 tbs. of double-acting baking powder. I stirred everything together with a balloon whisk. I then added 1 egg, 1/2 cup of milk, a tsp. of vanilla, and 1/2 stick of melted unsalted butter. I stirred everything together again with the balloon whisk. I found the batter to be too wet. I grabbed a handfull of flour and mixed it in. The batter had just the right consistancy. I folded in 1/2 package of butterscotch morsels and place the batter onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet in about 1 1/2" balls. I put them into a 375' oven and baked for eight minutes. They were beginning to brown and had puffed up beautifully. I immediately removed them from the oven to a paper-towel lined table and let them cool. They were perfectly tender, very light, and had great flavor. I was able to get them to my niece before she left. She is a nine-year old and was thrilled to get them for the trip home.

I was able to do this because I know that for 1 cup of flour, I need 1/2 tsp. of salt and about three tbs. of fat. This comes from having a home made pancake batter memorized. I also knew that I could use butter and sucralose as the holding power of shortening or lard wasn't required gor the texture I wanted. After all, these were to be more cake-like in the middle. I also know that double acting beaking powder has great leavening action and would produce siginficant loft in the cookie. The egg and gluten would provide sufficent stucture to hold the resultant Co2 in the batter, creating the fluffiness I desired. Also, by adding milk, I increased the protien and fat content slightly, and activated the baking powder's leavening action. I had the timing and temperature memorized from the toll-house cookie recipe and was able to estimate the time required for making my cookie.

The point of this long dissertation is that as you bake from recipes, pay attention to the ingredients and techniques, and the results that come from them. I was able to take knowledge from the toll-house cookies, my pancake batter recipe, and techniques used for making cakes, combine parts of each, and use them to imporvise a great cookie batter recipe with a strong chance of sucess in making a very good cookie that I knew my niece would adore, but that I had no recipe for. And I do this for all kinds of foods, not just cookies. A strong knowledge base definitely allows you to be creative.

Hope this helps.

Seeeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 08-19-2007, 01:50 PM   #5
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Old 08-19-2007, 01:58 PM   #6
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Well that post has been printed for my future reference - thanks! But where were you when I needed you?
I once baked a batch of peanut butter cookies that my dog refused to eat (and she was well known for eating anything) When my son was in Marine Boot camp he asked me NOT to send him cookies! I've since improved but yours is the best explanation I've seen.
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Old 08-19-2007, 02:47 PM   #7
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Use real butter, next time. The recipe calls for more brown sugar than white..I would total the sugar, and then equally split between white and brown.
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Old 08-19-2007, 02:47 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lindatooo View Post
Well that post has been printed for my future reference - thanks! But where were you when I needed you?
I once baked a batch of peanut butter cookies that my dog refused to eat (and she was well known for eating anything) When my son was in Marine Boot camp he asked me NOT to send him cookies! I've since improved but yours is the best explanation I've seen.
Peanut butter cookies are actuall more complex than are the cookies I mentioned in my previous post. The peanut butter contains significant fat, reducing the amount you need to add in the form of butter, lard, or shortening. Also, the round peanuts are not sticky in the way that flour is, and so create a more delicate structure. Too much peanut butter results in a cooking with too little structure. It will litterally fall apart, even when cooled. Too much flour, on the other hand, will create a very hard cookie.

If I were to make this type of cookie from scratch, I would again use a 375 degree oven. I would use lard in place of butter, as it doesn't melt as quickly and will allow the flour to set up and hold its shape better. I would use baking soda and baking powder to create a cookie that is not quite as gooey as a chocolate chip cookie, but not as cake-like as my butterscotch cookie. Here's the recipe I would use, If I didn't have one available to me.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar (will help the cookie hold together and will sweeten
1/2 tsp. salt (the peanut butter contains salt as well)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
3 eggs (extral protien to help create proper cookie structure)
3 tbs. Lard (lard is actually healthier than is butter or shortening and will help the cookie maintain its shape while baking)
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla (essential for flavor ballance)
Chopped peanuts (adds texture)

Preheat oven to 375' F.
Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder with a wire whisk to evenly distribute all ingredients. In a seperate bowl mix together the egg, lard, and vanilla. Gently pour in the flour mixture, stirring while mixing, until all of the ingredients are thouroughly mixed. Add the chopped paenuts, again stirring until all ingredients are mixed.

If the batter is too runny, add a little more flour. The raw batter texture should be like a soft clay. Roll out 2 inch balls of cookie dough. Get a bit of oil on a fork by stabbing the fork into the raw cookie dough. Dip in sugar and use to flatten the cookie dough balls, leaving forked ridges on top. Bake in the oven for about nine minutes. Cookies should be lull on top, not shiny. Remove from the oven and imidieatly place on cloth or paper towel covered surface to cool.

If this recipe doesn't produce quite what you're looking for, remember how you made it, then adjust the ingredient ratios to get what you are looking for, keeping in mind what each ingredient does in the cookie.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 08-19-2007, 04:25 PM   #9
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Thanks for the advice!! I was able to derive 4 tips in particular that will help me. I think my next batch of cookies should be improved. I can't wait to give it a try. :)
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Old 08-19-2007, 07:39 PM   #10
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Goodweed, your posts were like a cooking class! Thank you! You laid it out so logically. I had read several times that cooking is an art but baking is a science. Of course, that made zero sense to me until I read your posts! I'm thinkin' you might want to consider putting all this wisdom in book format!
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